Omagh victims react to TDs backing McKevitt release

Man who lost wife says he has ‘no objections’ while another says he is ‘angry and bitter’

Photograph from February 2008 of Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Photograph from February 2008 of Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The news that a number of TDs are supporting the release from prison of Michael McKevitt as he recovers from surgery prompted some different reactions from the victims of the 1998 Real IRA Omagh bombing.

Stanley McCombe, who lost his wife Ann in the explosion which killed 29 people including a woman heavily pregnant with twin girls, said he felt “angry and bitter” that the TDs were lobbying on McKevitt’s behalf.

Kevin Skelton, whose wife Philomena or Mena died in the explosion, on the other hand said he had no objection to McKevitt being released on compassionate grounds.

Mr McCombe (66) said his wife “would not be released from the grave” while “irrespective of whether he is an ill man or not” McKevitt was at least alive.

“For these TDs to be coming along and wanting his release are not fighting for any justice for my wife and for everybody else that was murdered in Omagh,” he said.

A spokesperson for Omagh Support & Self Help Group said they were “disappointed but not surprised” at the TDs support of McKevitt, adding:

“We feel that there is no respite from the life sentence which terrorists have inflicted on their victims and their families and compassion was not a consideration when they planted bombs with the intention to murder innocent civilians.”

Mr McCombe who is a member of the Omagh Survivors and Self-Help Group said group members were angry and bitter that the TDs were seeking his release.

He understood how Mr Skelton might have different views but believed that the predominant Omagh view was that he should not be released.

“McKevitt is such a vile person as far as I am concerned that he should not be released,” he said.

“I will fight on because I have never got justice for my wife, and I will fight for justice until the day I die,” he added.

Mr Skelton however said he had no objection to his release. “I am not a bitter person. I have lost loved ones through cancer. I would have no objections,” he said. “I don’t want to see families suffering. No matter what he did or didn’t do you can’t blame the family.”

Mr Skelton, whose daughter Shauna was badly injured in the blast, said that neither he nor his family bore feelings of hatred any more.

Of McKevitt he said, “He has done a fair stretch as it is. There are a lot of people who committed horrendous crimes over the last 30-40 years and served a lot less, and got out and there was no word about it. I would have no objections, none at all, I am more interested in looking to the future than looking back.”

“I would have no feelings of being betrayed or anything else; no, none at all,” he added.

Mr Skelton made the point that McKevitt wasn’t actually convicted for the Omagh bombing but as the Real IRA leader he was imprisoned for directing terrorism.

He also observed that no one has been convicted in a criminal court for the Omagh murders. “They were fit to convict him, why were they not fit to convict the rest?” he said.

Mr Skelton said he had “no problem” with the TDs lobbying on McKevitt’s behalf. “I could not care less, that’s being honest. If he gets out he gets out. If he doesn’t he doesn’t, it makes no difference to me,” he said.

“But on compassionate grounds there comes a time when you have to let go. We are supposed to be humane; I am one of those people who would have a bit of humanity within me no matter what somebody done to me. So, I have no objection if they have put up a petition. It won’t change my life or anything,” added Mr Skelton.

Mr Skelton (60) was not involved in the successful civil case preferring to take his own direction through the Co Tyrone victims’ group, Families Moving On.

Mr Skelton, who remarried nine years ago, said he was very involved in the victims’ organisation and in groups such as St Vincent de Paul.

He also wrote a book about Omagh, Sent by an Angel, about how he believed the spirit of his wife rescued him from despair, alcohol dependence and thoughts of suicide, and also helped him find love again. “I am flat to the mat; I don’t have time to worry about anything” he said.